FLOOD LIGHTS

Under heavy skies, traffic crawled across Paris last Wednesday as frustrated drivers cursed the swollen river Seine for a second consecutive week. The rain-engorged river overflowed its banks and flooded the roads, pushing thousands of extra cars onto the already-crowded streets around the Place de la Concorde.
There was equal gridlock inside, at Waring Hopkins’s opulent new gallery on nearby avenue Matignon, when Vera Santo Domingo, Mica Ertegun, Beatrice de Rothschild, Betty Catroux, Helene David-Weill, Firyal of Jordan and Alexis de Rede poured in to see a group of new paintings by Fernando Botero.
“It’s like a Marx Brothers movie,” chirped Alejandra di Andia as she watched the crowd push into Hopkins’s plush office. “Everybody goes in, goes in, goes in — and nobody comes out.”
The svelte visitors made a striking contrast to Botero’s corpulent subjects — “big bottoms in small frames” is how one wag described the small-format paintings. “Perfect for the refrigerator,” added another. “To remind you that summer is coming soon.”
The gallery itself, decorated by grand Paris tastemaker Francois Joseph Graff — he’s known as the Emperor among his fans — drew even more comments.
“The sofas in Waring’s office!” exclaimed Deeda Blair. “You couldn’t sit on them and not buy a painting.”
Later that night, the dinner at Ledoyen turned unusually lively, by Paris standards — perhaps because it doubled as a happy 50th birthday dinner for Hopkins — as everyone swapped gossip and bons mots to a Cuban soundtrack.
The best line of the night may have belonged to Nilia Cates, a grande dame whose Paris apartment once belonged to Loel and Gloria Guiness. She amused her table by repeating the new nickname for Betrand Delanoe, Paris’s recently elected mayor, who is openly gay.”He is Notre Dame de Paris,” said Cates.